"Spirit of Woman"

Five thousand years ago, in cultures around the world, women held powerful positions within the community as sacred facilitators: shamans, priestesses, diviners, midwives, healers and medicine women. Threatened by their power, the leaders of conquering patriarchal cultures denigrated them to subservient roles, bonds which contemporary women continue the struggle to overcome. Revisiting the ancient archetypes have helped many women in their personal journeys to empowerment.

“Spirit of Woman: a sacred circle” is an important element in my own search for self-awareness and empowerment. I imagined and constructed this massive scale installation while I worked toward my Masters of Fine Arts Degree at UCLA in the late 1980’s. I was inspired by reading Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, Black Elk Speaks, The Mythic Image and The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell, and Barbara G. Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.

Over twelve months I designed and created a sixteen-foot wide circular room with 246 high-relief glazed ceramic tiles hung on a continuous eight-foot-tall wall. Each of thirteen four-foot-wide panels was sculpted from mounds of red clay thrown onto a curved wooden form. Then, each panel was cut into eighteen pieces. The 16 x 16 inch tiles, up to six inches thick, were dried, hollowed out, dried again, fired, glazed, and installed on the vertical surface with industrial Velcro. The solitary opening into the space was a four-foot circular opening (shown between the two rearing horses), mimicking rebirth as each viewer entered through it.

The four guard horses, red, yellow, blue and white, (two of which are pictured here) represent the four directions of the medicine wheel. Named for each of the seasons of the year, these horses were first envisioned by Black Elk in a dream and are laden with many Native American myths and symbols. 

From Greek mythology, Artemis is the huntress and protector of wilderness. She is pictured here with a stag’s head, a woman’s breasts and a body of moving currents from the underground river of energy and connectedness to all things. At her side is mother bear, a symbol of power and protection, and her constant companion.

Hera, the ultimate symbol of power in earlier matriarchal cultures, has the head of the sacred cow. The oldest sister of Zeus, according to the Greeks she later marries him. She stands surrounded by lilies that are formed from the milk of her breasts as it falls to the earth. About her head are the stars of the Milk Way which were formed by droplets of Hera’s milk being flung into the sky.

Persephone is the lost daughter of Demeter, the queen of the harvest and giver of life. She was taken from her mother’s care by Hades, the god of the underworld, who wanted to possess her. Here, she is shown trapped in a cave, a symbol of the underworld. Separated from her daughter and afraid for her innocence, Demeter neglects her earthly duties and allowed all the crops of the world to die. When the gods hear the cries of all the people of the world starving, they confront the mournful mother. Only when the gods force Hades to return her daughter would she allow the grain to grow and flourish. The gods capitulate, telling Hades to release the girl to her mother. Unfortunately, while in the underworld, Persephone eats from his banquet table allowing Hades to force the object of his desires to live with him for half of every year. During the months her daughter must live in the underworld, Demeter grieves and we experience the cold of winter.

This installation was exhibited only once, in the summer of 1990. Since then, it has been moved three times, and remains in storage. One day, I hope to erect it on my land to be a place where daughters, mothers and crones can dance and celebrate their invaluable roles in our modern day culture.

In modern times, mothers and grandmothers need to teach our daughters how to be self-reliant and resourceful. Only then will they be able to avoid abuse by boyfriends and early pregnancy. We must teach them that there are consequences for all our actions and inactions and that education is the path to anywhere they want to go. We need to guide them, to help them create a vision for their own lives, one that will one day bring them a smile of satisfaction as they sit on their porch watching their own grandchildren play.

Stormy day on Mulberry Lane

Stormy day on Mulberry Lane
"Living in my dream"